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Slap trouble

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by ColtraneWorship, Feb 20, 2008.

  1. ColtraneWorship


    Jun 17, 2006
    Hello, everybody. I'm having problems getting a good slap sound. My bass is an Ibanez SRX-305, and the strings are very close to the fingerboard (very low action). I've seen lots of videos and read a lot on the subject, but i just cannot seem to be able to slap without rebounding. I am 6 foot 4 inches, with very big hands (sort of clumsy hands, too :crying:)

    I've tried slapping in the fingerboard, meaning after the slap movement, i aim to leave my thumb in the fingerboard, on top of the string inmediately below the one i slapped. When i do this, i get a very strumming-kind of movement, i strum the strum more than slap it, besides, i almost always touch the string i'm trying to slap, thus muting the sound.

    I've tried to slap the string and aim for the string below it, not on the fingerboard, but over the pickups. The result is very much the same. My fat thumb touches the string i just slapped when it rests on the one below.

    In the end, to relief the frustration, i've been playing without any anchor (no pinky on the bass to hold the hand position), and with rebounding with every slap. It felt good, but i don't want to learn the wrong way and learn in the future that i cannot play certain things because of bad technique.

    Nonetheless, i was watching some YouTube videos of Alexis Sklarevski, Larry Graham and Victor Wooten, and none of them play slap while leaving their hand in the air. Also, Graham doesn't rebound at all, for what i've seen. (Yes, i know, HE IS LARRY GRAHAM)

    Can anyone give me an advice on this direction. I don't know if i am doing it right, but i like to be anal about technique. I am self taught, yet i've tried to learn everything "the professional way" (for whatever it's worth, anyway)

    Thanks in advance, and sorry for the strange english. It's not my mother tongue.
  2. lol well there's your problem :smug: you're a big guy playing an Ibanez, which has a notorious reputation for having the skinniest basses around.

    when I was still on guitar, when I first started playing music, I learned to play slap-blues licks on an acoustic....but I guess that's not relevant.

    when it came to bass, I had to pick up one that brought out the best in me in terms of slap. It goes without saying that it took me a long time before I seriously took my slap playing to the next level.

    give it some time, and maybe consider a bass with a wider string spacing.
  3. ColtraneWorship


    Jun 17, 2006
    Right, this confirms my suspicions. So i think i will buy a new bass, maybe a Fender P-Bass, or some Warwick, i've been told they are good for slap.

    Thanks, i was told this, that my Ibanez bass was not really very good for doing slap, but i thought it was a good bass overall.
  4. Ibanez are excellent basses, with fantastic quality control.

    Only 2/4 of my basses are set up for slap, the others are for finger-style, and for picking.
  5. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    Nonsense, does not mean you necessarily need a new bass. Unless your fingers are larger than the size of large pickles......

    Sounds like you could use some exercises for accuracy. You seem to have some of the right ideas in place. The spacing would have to be narrower than a classical guitar to create that much of a space issue for you. I believe working on your accuracy will resolve this issue.

    Honing in:

    Your Thumb:

    Instead of just "slapping in a *straight on* direction", ( i assumed from you stating the word "rebound".) Try actually grazing your thumb in a downward motion to come to rest on the next string, instead of hitting it "straight on". For a good thumb exercise, use your thumb and clearly let each note progression ring out (E-A-D-G-D-A-E), when you get better hitting each note once, change the progression to two times each...and three, and so on.

    Your index (also middle, if you wish as well)

    Try the same progressions as above, instead, use tip of your index finger to go slightly underneath the string you want to pull, use a short "upward motion", you don't have to pull any more than 2" to 3" away, max. If it takes more effort than that, work on it until you can just do a "slight motion". Accomplish this and for good measure try to implement your middle finger to do the same, then you can try "alternating fingers" with the previously mentioned progression.

    Combining the two

    once you've become slightly more accurate with your thumb and your index (middle) finger(s),
    Now it's time to do an exercise that consists of "octaves".
    4 3 2 1
    |-----|-----|-----|-----| G
    |-----|--*--|-----|-----| D
    |-----|-----|-----|-----| A
    |-----|-----|-----|--*--| E

    4 3 2 1
    |-----|--*--|-----|-----| G
    |-----|-----|-----|-----| D
    |-----|-----|-----|--*--| A
    |-----|-----|-----|-----| E

    Hit once with the thumb, once with the pluck (pull)
    Hit twice with the thumb, twice with the pluck
    Hit three with the thumb, three with the pluck

    ...and alternate

    Hit twice with the thumb, once with the pluck
    Hit once with the thumb, twice with the pluck, and so on.

    If you work with it long enough, you'll always get better.

    take what works, discard the rest.

  6. Mudshark23


    Jan 31, 2008
    a big +1 on the ibanez being a big part of the problem. big hands need big string spacing for slap, at least at first while you getting your technique nailed down.

    as far as technique goes...well in being self taught earlier on i read everything i could about slap technique. i have seen claypool, wooten, burbidge (not to mention a whole bunch of others) play mulitple times, and mostly watched what their right hands were doing.

    after 16 years of this, and reaching some degree of proficiency in this department i have to say that one of the most under emphasized aspects of the slap technique is what i refer to as the angle of approach. simply put, this refers to the actual vector of your thumb in motion in relation to the string.

    due to inherant variations in physiology of the human body from person to person, it is my opinion that everybody has their own ideal angle of approach, as determined by their own wrist/forearm/strap height/instrument parameters.

    because of this, i would not say that there is an objective ideal angle of approach for everybody, but everybody has their own ideal angle of approach. this can only be determined through extensive experimentation and technical refinement.

    my advice for good slapping is try to cop as many different styles as you can (flea does not slap like les who does not slap like wooten who does not slap like graham...and so on) initially and when you find something working better than the others than run with that...at least until you get bored and then start working on a different style.

    determining your own angle of approach can take quite a long time, it took me about 10 years of playing every day to find mine, and after 6 years of refinining it i am almost at the point where i can hit the string (single/double/triple hits) in any direction at will.

    just keep at it, but be smart about it. it's all in the wrist. ;)
  7. Excellent post. Just to clarify one thing, this is a left handed tab, so those who play right handed should flip the image.
  8. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    Well the main point to my .02, is technique can overcome this if applied properly. I have hands that are above average size, i do own an Ibanez SDGR, that I purchased in '89 or '90, which is renowned for having "tight spacing" and do you believe that stopped me, no way. It's just totally avoiding the issue and finding the "easy way out", by moving to another instrument.:)
  9. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    Silly me, for being left handed :p
  10. I am, too. I just happen to play right handed. ;)
  11. ColtraneWorship


    Jun 17, 2006
    Thanks for the replies. As for getting a new bass, i am not partial to it, mainly because i'm thinking about buying a 5-string, so buying another 4-string would be a pain.

    I also think that perhaps if i try hard on accuracy i will improve. But, Alembicplyr, if i understand your words correctly, my strum movement (which also gets some kind of slap sound, only more muted), is the way to go. From what i've seen in the videos of the bassists i've mentioned, none of them seem to happily fly their hand, they seem to have quite a controlled technique. The "problem" with my strum movement, as i call it, is that the slap sound is very weak, even when it does not die out because i mute it with the thumb. ¿perhaps i'm using the wrong EQ, so i sound very muted?

    But, anyway, thanks really, because, even if i still think slap will sound better on the 4-string P-bass i will one day buy, i wanted to make sure that my Ibanez would serve me as well. As i said, i'm very strict about learning the right way, even if it means leaving the fun for a bit later on. I will practice on your exercises, and some more i've seen on the net.
  12. It could also be your angle of attack, as Mudshark mentioned. There's two basic slap styles, the bounce off the string style that many people teach and is popularized by guys like Flea, and the through the string style (aka the "strum" you mention) that's actually what Larry Graham does as well as quite a few others like Victor Wooten. Neither is superior to the other, though we did have a debate about it in an older thread. Personally I find it much easier to do the through the string approach. When I started out I couldn't get my thumb to bounce right consistently. I'd end up with muted sounds that I did not want. When I learned the through the string approach it made things much easier.

    Not that I'm a slapper. In fact, I'm just now trying to seriously learn the technique.
  13. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    2/4 is 1/2 :D:p:cool:
  14. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    If you can brave the redundancy of the exercises, do it on a daily basis, for example, 30min or 1 hour a day, you will see a big difference in about 2 weeks.
    As far as "strum" thumb, It can easily be used upward too. Up and down "strum" technique will allow you to "double thump" as victor wooten calls it. I went to a Victor Wooten clinic and he elaborated on this. Now before I used to use the "straight down" on the string, but after that clinic, I was using the strum alot more. Victor makes it look so easy, I eventually got better at it, I do alot of that "alternating" thumb styles now.

    Vic double thumping (somewhat tutorial) :
  15. ColtraneWorship


    Jun 17, 2006
    Thanks again, this post has really clarified a lot of my questions about slap. I've been watching some videos of the guys with the rebounding (straight on) style, and, well, i think that i will go for that until i get a new 4-string. It is quite easier for me to do it that way, but i keep in mind to learn the other way just as well.

    I have seen some Vic videos where he uses the thumb like a pick (down, up, down, up), and, man, that kind of movement gives you some real control.

    So, thanks again, i will do the exercises and hopefully, be able to incorporate slap in my playing (not that i'm that slap oriented, i like jazz very much, but in my area, Spain, Madrid, there are little jazz bands, but a lot of funk ones, so i want to get skills to play funk bass)

    This forum rules !!! :bassist:
  16. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    Just know you can always find help here in TB
  17. heres a tip my teacher gave me,...

    find a song you know pretty well, and instead of playing finger style, slow it right down and slap those notes! then when you get consistent, speed it up so its the same as you would normally play,... it helps because it gets you slapping more than just one string and at the same time isnt a boring exercise in itself :)

    I started doing the intro to RATM - bombtrack just slapping,... sounds very trippy hehe

    and dont give up on the string spacing,... im currently learning on a 5 string which made it hard to start off with but actually forced me to focus on muting the other strings / striking accurately rather than just bashing away with a thumb :)
  18. T-MOST

    T-MOST Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2004
    NJ via NYC
    A wider neck will make a world of difference. Try a Jazz, a P or anything you like with a wider neck.
  19. Toastfuzz


    Jul 20, 2007
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Let me just say that I've been playing my Ibanez GSR200 beginners bass for the whole year I've been playing, and at first slap seemed impossible. Diligence is key though, and a few months later I found myself jamming out Tommy the Cat right along with the recording. So, I would disagree with some about the Ibanez. Unless his Ibanez is alot different than mine, but people seem to generalize Ibanez as narrow. I wouldnt even know.
  20. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    Again, an easy way out,Would he not be more accurate using the ibanez, if he worked with it more? Your technique should span across any 4 or 5 string (basically) you come across in just about any instance, right?
    And say, if he gets a 5 string, he will get relatively close string spacing as an Ibanez, do you see a difference here? Am I wrong in some way? Moving to a wider neck, still leaves his technique to work on regardless right? (**This is an example**)It just reminds me of one of those "be like mike" situations, thinking that if you have his shoes that your gonna play b-ball "like mike". The fact is it's mikes skills are missing, and you're just left with merely a pair of shoes.

    It's more technique needed here, not another bass. I just feel he would profit more, bettering himself before "widening the neck".
    Heres an open ended question, "What makes the slap happen, the bass or the player?", speaking for myself, I'm willing to gamble that I could slap an Ibanez bass, the same as a precision,jazz,warwick,ken smith,pedulla or etc (and have), not because of the bass but because of the skill I've acquired over the years.

    and this is (IME).

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